By Delroy Nesta Williams
I never had a boyfriend before, how was I going to explain that to my mother. Surely she wouldn’t approve but we never kept any secrets from one another. I was her only child and she being so young when she had me, she felt more like my bigger sister than my mother. That was the lovely bond that I had with her - a motherly comfort but sisterly support.
But she hadn’t known about Michael, I couldn’t find a way to tell her especially since she had drilled me about the importance of school and waiting until I graduated from Convent to have a relationship. But Michael wasn’t planned, he just happened. A chance meeting at the Public Library while I was doing some research for a Geography S.B.A was the beginning of our saga. He had knocked down my books in passing and when I confronted him, although he had been difficult about it, he somehow left an impression on me. That night I couldn’t stop thinking about him, although at the time it was more out of anger than admiration. But I kept seeing him at the library and for some reason we always got caught staring at each other. I had told myself that I would never approach him and if he ever dared come speak to me that I would have shamed him. That didn’t work out as I had thought, far from that. I didn’t expect him to bring me an apple and leave poems in my book. That sort of thing had never happened to me before; no boys had ever paid me any attention. So before I actually knew what was going on we started to spend more time with each other, just as friends at first but then I got this unexplainable feeling in my tummy, Michael was starting to have a strong effect on me.
Michael was different though, well different from what I had expected. He was thoughtful, underneath the rough coat that he put on for his friends. He was at the State College as well, a little older than the other boys that I had known and lived in Roseau which meant that I would see him on my way home most of the times. On days when he could, he would wait after class until he saw me and on some days walked me to the Bath Estate Bridge before heading back home. He would carry my bag or the extra books that I had in my hands. One time he even sang for me, it was a Michael Bolton song. He wanted to be a doctor but had a love for singing. He had asked me to go into the Botanic Gardens a few times but my mother had put the fear of God in me about that place. I wasn’t going in there with a boy, not ever. So we mostly hung out at the library or in the school yard. A few times he even came over to my home but I would go to the library almost every day to spend time with him. My mother never complained because she worked long hours and wouldn’t be home until 7 or 8 most nights and I would already be home either watching television or reading a book.
But deep down I knew I shouldn’t keep him a secret from my mother much longer especially since the kiss. Michael had just snuck up on me with that kiss but I wanted it as much as he did. It was in the back of my mind for weeks. He was a good kisser, although this was my first experience so I really couldn’t be a good judge. But he had some soft lips and was a good teacher. We probably spent 20 minutes locked in each other’s arms, just kissing, caressing each other. My eyes were closed most of the time but when I opened them I found Michael with that look in his eyes. He wanted me as much as I wanted him and from that moment I decided that I would have to get my mother’s blessings.
Truth is, we had done much more than just kissing but I wouldn’t tell my mother that, not yet. I would tell her on a need to know basis and right now she didn’t need to know that. Besides, by the time she would find out the rest I would have safely graduated from high school. Everything was going down as I had planned it in my head, except for the telling her part, for now.
I would sit her down and explain to her that this wouldn’t affect my school work. In fact, it even gave me more determination to study because I wanted to be smart and accomplished like Michael. I had all these dreams about us getting married, having children and going on trips all over the world – Paris, New York and even as far as Tokyo. For most parts, I had only seen these cities on television and read about them in books and on the internet but I knew these were places where lovers visited, so it was only right that we would venture to these parts of the globe.
I had spoken to Michael about my plan to tell my mother and although he was quite hesitant at first, he agreed. He surprised me though when he said that he wanted to be there when I told my mother or rather when I asked her permission. It just didn’t feel like something a guy his age would do.
“Mom, I have something I need to tell… err, I mean ask you?” I said
“I am tired child, can it wait?” she responded, “I had a long day at work.”
“No, uhmm, yes it can,”
“Yes or no? Is it about school? Is it about church?”
“No, not really, it isn’t about those things,”
“Is it a life or death thing? Are you sick sweetie?”
“No mammy, it isn’t and no, I am not sick,”
“So it can wait then?”
“Yes it can, I wasn’t really going to ask you now, I just wanted to let you know that I have something important to tell you,”
“So when are you going to tell me this thing then?”
“When is your next day off?”
“Saturday, but I want to go to town?”
“I can tell you before we go to town,”
“We go? You’re just inviting yourself?”
“So I can’t come?
“Yes, yes you can come. You will tell me on Saturday morning then.”
“Thank you, mammy!”
“Now leave me alone let me rest my weary bones,” she responded laughingly.
She then sat down in front of the television and put her foot up to watch the Young and the Restless. Ten minutes later she was snoring away. The typical scenario whenever she was too tired to do anything after work. Being a ward aid at the hospital meant long, strange hours but she never complained. When I recognized that the snoring had gotten very loud, which meant that she was deep in sleep, I snuck into the backroom, picked up my mom’s cell phone and called Michael. It had become our regular routine. He would wait by the phone for me, until I called. We would only spend 5 or so minutes on the phone but that time was like heaven to me. It was one thing to hear his voice in person but a more serene experience over the phone. He sounded so calm and thoughtful, like every word was well calculated. On days when I was anxious and afraid, he managed to calm my fears. Those, including our times at the library, were my most cherished moments.
“She said Saturday morning,”
“Yes, who else?”
“Just confirming, so what time should I come over?”
“Are you sure you want to do that?”
“Yes I do!”
“Around nine then!”
“So early? I’ve got football practice,”
“So you can’t come?” I asked sadly.
“I will come, I won’t go,”
“Okay,” I blotted out surprisingly.
“So you’re okay baby?” he asked in this smooth tone.
“Yes I am,” I blushed.
“Will I see you tomorrow?”
“After school, I can’t go to the library; I’ve got to babysit,”
“Okay, well good night baby,”
“Thanks my love,” I responded as I ended the call but not before I kissed the screen.
Saturday took its merry time to get here and I woke up feeling so sick that morning. Michael was already on his way and by the time I made it to the kitchen, mom was busy washing clothes in the backyard. I put on the television and started having breakfast. I heard a knock on the door before I could even have a sip of my cocoa tea. It was Michael. I gave him a quick hug and kiss after he entered the living room, careful that nobody saw us.
“So where’s your mom?” he asked, almost too eagerly.
“She’s in the backyard washing,”
“So are you ready?”
“Yes, as ready as I was ever be,” I said, trying to sound brave but with my voice breaking up.
Michael caught on too and at that moment he spun me around lightly and gave me a tight hug, kissing me on my forehead. That was just what I needed in that moment. Suddenly, I felt brave and ready to take on the world, well at least to face my mother. I could hear her singing from the backyard. She loved country and western music. Saturday morning and sometimes Sundays were dedicated to the sounds of Kenny Rogers, Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton and Willy Nelson. Sometimes I even sang along, those songs were always catchy and although I denied it every time, I had become a fan as well. As we walked towards the backyard, I started to hum to “islands in the stream” which made Michael chuckle.
“Baby, when I met you… there was peace unknown… I set out to get you with a fine tooth comb… I was soft inside… there was something going on.”
“You know Kenny Rogers?” he asked laughingly.
“Yes I do!” I affirmed, “My mother listens to him all the time.”
“Okay cool, good music,”
Michael was clearly an old soul trapped in this young man’s body and that just got me so excited. I hope my mom can see what a catch he is and understands why I am breaking my pledge to her. We exited the kitchen into the backyard to find my mom fixing the clothes line. It seemed to have fallen down, maybe overnight because it was fine yesterday. As we approached her, she turned around and gave me this funny, surprising look. It was a mixture of being startled and worried and that was the first time I had seen this expression upon her face in forever.
“Who is this young man?” she asked, in a tone that suggested that she already knew what I was about to respond.
“Who? Him?” I said, almost taken aback by her tone. I wasn’t ready to do this but it was too late now.
“Yes, him,” she said pointing, “he’s the only one here with us,”
“That’s what; I mean that’s who I wanted to talk to you about,”
“Well, talk to me!” she shrieked, her voicing growing with every word.
Michael for the cool, assured person that he had been before hadn’t moved a muscle. I turned to look at him and he was sweating profusely, even shaking a bit. I grabbed his hand but he pulled away slightly, almost leaving me to be devoured by my mother. I looked up at him and for the first time I saw fear in his eyes. But if anything, I should be the one to be afraid but instead I felt a certain poise like the situation needed me to show my maturity.
“Mammy, this is Michael and he’s my friend!”
“Nice to meet you Michael,” as she stretched her hands towards him. For the first time he moved a bit.
“Michael and I got to know each other a few months ago”
“Okay,” she said awaiting some more details.
“We met at the library while I was doing homework. He goes to the State College. We’ve been talking for a while now and…”
“Baby, stop, stop, I have something to tell you,” she interrupted.
“No mammy, I have something to tell you first,”
“No, what I have to say is more important and I think it’s time you know,”
“But mammy, I want to tell you,”
“Let me explain first,” she said with tears filling up her eyes.
I didn’t understand why she was getting more emotional than me over this. I was the one who was about to spill my guts to her. She sat down on a stool and put her face in her hands, leaning over into her lap. My mother seemed an emotional wreck as I stood there bewildered with Michael to my side. I looked at him but he was being no help to me either, with this blank steer in his eyes. I couldn’t blame him, this was much more than we had prepared for. In our discussion, we had only looked at one side of the outcome, this was new territory.
“Kelian,” she said, “do you remember what I told you about your father?”
“Yes, he is in the States!”
“Not quite in the States. Your father has been in Dominica for quite a while now. In fact, I should have brought you to meet him years ago. I had you when I was just a young girl, just about your age, seventeen and at that time things were rough with my mother.”
“Yes mammy, I remember the story”
“There’s more to the story, that I need you to know now. Your father’s parents had paid my parents off to have an abortion but instead my mother took the money and posted me to Vieille Case to live with my aunt. So I gave birth to you there. I actually name after him; well your middle name so there would always be a link.”
“My middle name is Michelle”
“Yes Michelle” she confirmed. “I came back to town to live so you could attend high school but I’ve always kept a close eye on your father although he is unaware.”
“So who’s my father? Where’s my father?”
“your father is Michael Shillingford!” she cried out from among the tears that were streaming down her face. Her eyes were red with fear and shame. She didn’t even look at me but was staring at my boyfriend.
“But, but my father is Michael Shillingford!” Michael revealed.
“Yes, I know,” she said continuing to cry, “Kelian is your sister. Isn’t that what you came here to tell me? That you somehow found out?”
“No!” was all that Michael could muster and for the first time it hit me straight in my chest. A deep pain overtook me.
“No, mom… I wanted to introduce Michael as my, my, my,” I hesitated.
“Your, your what?”
“Boyfriend, mammy… he’s my boyfriend!” as I staggered with my speech.
“No, no, no... He can’t be your boyfriend, he’s your brother,” she screamed out, “he’s your brother, Kelian.”
“Ma’am, I love her!”
Those were the last words that I made out from the conversation before I crumbled to the ground. Michael stretched over to help me but my mom pushed him away as she dashed to pick me up. He just stood there, in shock after that, with a look of shame as to what had just transpired. I crashed into my mother’s lap crying my guts out as he hovered over us. As I peeked through my mother’s dress, I could see the indecision in his face, not knowing whether to leave or to stay to comfort me. My mother was still crying out, screaming to the top of her voice although she rocked me in her lap while embellishing me to keep quiet. All the crying and screaming had caused my eyes to swell but the real pain was in my chest and stomach, I could hardly gather the strength to stand.
“Rest my child,” my mother chided as I pushed off from her to take my feet.
“No mommy, I need to tell you something else,”
I turned to Michael, and then I looked at my mother. I looked down at my palms and for the first time in my life, I felt completely alone. All that I had known had come crashing down; nothing was what it seemed at all. Suddenly all the things that I thought I knew made no sense. Both of them gave me this concerned look but before I had the wherewithal to think through my statement I mumbled out a few words to them.
“What!!!!!!!” they both screamed out in unison.
“I’m pregnant,” I retorted.